Watson, George Lennox

SUBJECT AREA: Ports and shipping
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b. 1851 Glasgow, Scotland
d. 12 November 1904 Glasgow, Scotland
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Scottish designer of some of the world's largest sailing and powered yachts, principal technical adviser to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.
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Almost all of Watson's life was spent in or around the City of Glasgow; his formal education was at the city's High School and at the age of 16 he entered the yard and drawing offices of Robert Napier's Govan Shipyard. Three years later he crossed the River Clyde and started work in the design office of the Pointhouse Shipyard of A. \& J.Inglis, and there received the necessary grounding of a naval architect. Dr John Inglis, the Principal of the firm, encouraged Watson, ensured that he was involved in advanced design work and allowed him to build a yacht in a corner of the shipyard in his spare time.
At the early age of 22 Watson set up as a naval architect with his own company, which is still in existence 120 years later. In 1875, assisted by two carpenters, Watson built the 5-ton yacht Vril to his own design. This vessel was the first with an integral heavy lead keel and its success ensured that design contracts flowed to him for new yachts for the Clyde and elsewhere. His enthusiasm and increasing skill were recognized and soon he was working on the ultimate: the America's Cup challengers Thistle, Valkyrie II, Valkyrie III and Shamrock II. The greatest accolade was the contract for the design of the J Class yacht Britannia, built by D. \& W.Henderson of Glasgow in 1893 for the Prince of Wales.
The company of G.L.Watson became the world's leading designer of steam yachts, and it was usual for it to offer a full design service as well as supervise construction in any part of the world. Watson took a deep interest in the work of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and was its technical consultant for many years. One of his designs, the Watson Lifeboat, was a stalwart in its fleet for many years. In public life he lectured, took an active part in the debates on yacht racing and was recognized as Britain's leading designer.
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Bibliography
1881, Progress in Yachting and Yacht-Building, Glasgow Naval and Marine Engineering Catalogue, London and Glasgow: Collins.
1894, The Evolution of the Modern Racing Yacht, Badminton Library of Sports and Pastimes, Vol. 1, London: Longmans Green, pp. 54–109.
Further Reading
John Irving, 1937, The King's Britannia. The Story of a Great Ship, London: Seeley Service.
FMW

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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